Tuesday, January 26, 2010


So much for Martine Aubry's recently vaunted "realism." Les Echos offers an acid commentary, fully deserved.


Rue 89:

Lundi soir, à la télévision, si vous étiez une femme, un Arabe ou un Noir, vous aviez une chance plus grande que le président de la République vous appelle par votre prénom.

Aghion Report on Universities

Here. Article here.

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Statistics

You can't collect racial statistics in France. But you can publish racially charged photos, and in the absence of statistics, one can't say whether this is an accurate representation of delinquency in France or not. The CRAN has protested.

A Society Adrift

Bookforum has a very interesting review by the always excellent Scott McLemee on a posthumous collection of writings by Cornelius Castoriadis entitled A Society Adrift. Castoriadis was part of the "Socialisme ou Barbarie" group, which, as McLemee explains, grew out of a Trotskyist faction known as the "Chalieu-Montal minority," which was in turned linked to an American Trotskyist group whose leaders included C. L. R. James. In France, Castoriadis was associated with two other intellectuals who later became well-known in very different ways, Claude Lefort and J.-F. Lyotard. Lyotard became a theorist of postmodernism, while Lefort influenced a generation of "left liberal" intellectuals, most notably Pierre Rosanvallon. Some years ago, Lefort came to Harvard, where during lunch he mentioned that the group to which he and Castoriadis belonged was often erroneously identified as "Socialisme et Barbarie," a mistake that he regarded as a revealing Freudian slip. Sure enough, at the lecture afterward he was introduced by an eminent Harvardian as a representative of "Socialisme et Barbarie." Remember the group's sobriquet, SouB (perhaps one should call it a soubriquet) and you won't make that mistake.

What Passes For National Identity Debate

Jamel Debbouze: "La burqa n'est même pas un épiphénomène, ça concerne 250 personnes : qu'est-ce qu'on vient nous faire ch... avec ce truc", a lancé l'humoriste Jamel Debbouze sur France Inter mardi. "Encore une fois, c'est xénophobe, voilà. Et les gens qui vont dans ce sens-là sont des racistes", a ajouté l'humoriste à propos des préconisations de la mission parlementaire sur le voile intégral rendues mardi.

Jean-François Copé: "Si on ne l'interdit pas sur l'ensemble de l'espace public, ça peut donner le sentiment qu'on l'autoriserait" dans certains endroits, a-t-il déclaré à l'issue de la remise du rapport de la mission parlementaire , qui préconise une loi d'interdiction dans les services publics et s'interroge sur la constitutionnalité d'une prohibition générale. "Comment va-t-on expliquer que c'est plus constitutionnel à l'hôpital que dans la rue ?", s'est interrogé Jean-François Copé devant la presse.

Paris as Financial Center

Christine Lagarde has taken an initiative to improve the standing of Paris as a financial center by introducing new technology for bond trading.

A Shrewd Producer

I didn't watch all of the Sarko Show with Jean-Pierre Pernaut last night (life is short), but I did catch the beginning, the colloquy with "Nathalie" and "Monsieur Le Menahes." The difference in mode of address with the two interlocutors spoke volumes. With the unemployed young graduate in marketing, Sarko was avuncular, familiar, reassuring--and abstract in his answer: I will bring growth, he promised (this time he omitted to say that he would fetch it with his teeth), and some day you will find work. With Monsieur Le Menahes, the angry cégétiste in leathers and sporting earrings in both ears, he avoided familiarity, tapped his virile instincts, yet held his anger presidentially in check despite M. Le Menahes' dogged efforts to rattle him, and Pernaut's interventions to keep the conversation moving forward, which Sarko merely brushed aside. Indeed, the made-for-TV confrontation was so effective that one can imagine Sarko or his media advisors begging TF1 to find an angry trade unionist and deck him out in combative costume (the leather jacket and earrings--an inspired touch!) in order to provide the president with the répondant he has expressly found lacking in his face-offs with credentialed newsmen.

As reality TV, I would rate this show several notches above Jersey Shore. Even the rather moche setting--a few café tables strewn about a set made to resemble a classroom, with Pernaut strutting around in the rear like an anxious teacher while the mayor conducted his civics lesson in the front of the room--contributed to the overall effet de réalité. What many French viewers don't appreciate, I think, is how good Sarkozy is at this kind of performance. His tonal range as an actor is much better than one finds in even the most practiced American politicians. The failure to appreciate his gifts as a performer is perhaps because the staginess is in the end rather wearing. One has heard all the lines before in a variety of other "sets," and the whole show has the dated feel of one of those efforts to make, say, Le Misanthrope relevant to modern times by changing the actors' dress and body language to look more contemporary and setting the action in a Métro station or hospital waiting room rather than a château.

Here and here are two other takes.